LIQUID-Air engines, hydro-membranes and plant symbiosis sound like elements of a sci-fi movie, yet these innovations will be on display at the Emerging Technologies Seminar as part of the Ausveg National Convention.
“These technologies sound like they belong in Star Trek, but in reality, they are being developed right now and when they are adopted, it is hoped they will allow Australian growers to ‘live long and prosper’,” said Ausveg senior communications officer Hugh Gurney.
Global experts from a wide range of scientific backgrounds will provide Australian vegetable growers with a vision of the not-too-distant future of food production at the Convention, held from May 30 to June 1 at Jupiters Gold Coast, while presentations from speakers have been split into four main categories: Sales and Marketing; Research and Development (R&D); Business and Innovation, and Future Technologies.
“The Emerging Technologies Seminar will expose Australian horticulture to the most innovative and exciting agricultural practices from all over the world, providing growers with an idea of how they can adapt their businesses to benefit from the incredible technologies currently being developed,” Mr Gurney said.
"As global populations approach nine billion, it is imperative that Australian growers adapt their operations through advances in technology to meet the growing global demand for food."
This year’s Emerging Technologies Seminar will include a presentation from Yalman A. Khan, founder and chief executive officer of Dubai enterprise Agricel, who will discuss an innovative solution to water sustainability using hydro-membranes, a sponge-like film which is able to cultivate highly nutritious and pathogen resistant plants.
Professor Lars Nielson of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology will be discussing synthetic biology and the creation of biological systems cataloguing useful plant genes. The application of these systems may allow for new production of ‘super plants’, resulting in exceedingly resilient and prolific plant growth.
“With water and land scarcity an increasing problem globally, growers will need to be able to grow more with less, and these technologies will make this possible,” said Mr Gurney.
Flying in from Abingdon, UK, co-founder and chief scientist of Oxitec Dr Luke Alphey will delve into the world of emerging insect sterilisation technologies, moving away from conventional chemical controls and instead focusing on breeding lethality genes into pest populations.
Founding director and CFO of London-based Dearman Engines, Jeremy North, will discuss a revolutionary engine powered by the decompression of liquid air, cooled to -196°C. This revolutionary sustainable technology has numerous practical applications for the technology in the future market place.
“In particular, the industry is excited about hearing from Dr Rusty Rodriguez, CEO of the Seattle-based start-up Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, who will enlighten delegates with a presentation on plant symbiosis – whereby beneficial fungi colonise plant roots, optimising the water and mineral nutrient absorption of their host” said Mr Gurney.
Ausveg national marketing manager Simon Coburn said the speakers lined up for the Convention "are promising to be the biggest hit with growers, ever”.
One of this year’s most anticipated attractions will be a presentation from the charismatic chief economist of the Financial Services Council, James Bond, speaking on the “Changing Global and Australian Economies”.
“We are thrilled to have James speak at the Convention, particularly given the industry’s resolve to remain export competitive, and understanding Australia’s economic position in the global marketplace is key to doing so,” said Mr Coburn.
With horticulture being the second largest employer in the agriculture sector, Tass Angelopoulos, special counsel for DLA Piper Australia, will speak on the pitfalls and processes surrounding unfair dismissals to help growers deal with employment issues.
Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, Salah Sukkarieh, created such a buzz when he displayed his automated horticultural robots at last year’s Ausveg Future Technologies Seminar that this year they have found him a bigger stage.
“The technology is a reality for something every producer has only ever dreamed about – having a fully automated farm. These are all incredible ideas that look like they will pay off,” said Mr Coburn.
South Australian Senator, Anne Ruston, will be the keynote speaker for the Women in Horticulture Broadwater Cruise.
Senator Ruston, a small-business owner with a background in horticulture and a passion for rural and regional affairs, will address delegates aboard a five-star cruise on Saturday June 1.
Ausveg is the national peak industry body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.